Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

PHOENIX, AZ

Largest meeting venue: Phoenix Convention Center - 2 million + sq. ft., including 900,000+ sq. ft. of meeting and event space

Number of area guestrooms: 55,000

According to Douglas MacKenzie, spokesperson for the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, the affordability factor for Arizona's largest city starts with transportation.

"Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is a hub for two low-cost carriers (US Airways and Southwest), and healthy competition between those two helps keep the cost of flying here down," MacKenzie says.

"According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, average round-trip airfare to and from Sky Harbor has been below the national average for the past 12 years. And Sky Harbor consistently has the most inexpensive round-trip airfare averages among of the nation's top 10 busiest airports."

"The convention center is only six miles from the airport, and the average taxi fare for that trip is $16," MacKenzie continues. "That's way less than in most cities. You can also ride the light rail from the airport to downtown for $1.75."

MacKenzie calls Phoenix's year-round sunny weather its "biggest added value," noting that the summer off-season is ripe with special deals and incentives at local hotels, resorts and meeting facilities. The recession has also sparked a number of special offers. "High-end properties that typically charge $300 a night in peak season are offering rooms for $89 to $125," MacKenzie says. "There are also a lot of stay-two-nights-get-the-third-free deals out there."

Standard convention services include site inspections, assistance with bid proposals and registration, a PassKey housing reservation system and promotional materials.

Meeting groups and other visitors will find a wide array of things to see and do in the area, including African-American heritage attractions like the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, located in the former Phoenix Union Colored High School; the Black Theatre Troupe, which performs at the Helen K. Mason Center for the Performing Arts; the Swindall House, site of the only local hotel for Black guests during segregation; and Tanner Chapel African American Episcopal Church, the city's oldest Black church.

Other possibilities for the leisure itinerary include the Phoenix Art Museum, the Heard Museum, the Hall of Flame and Rawhide, a recreated 1880s western town.

For more information call (877) 633-8749.

PLANO, TX

Largest meeting venue: Plano Centre - 86,400 sq. ft., including 21,600 sq. ft. of exhibit space

Number of area guestrooms: 4,100

As part of its effort to provide both cost-efficiency and convenience to visitors, the Plano Convention & Visitors Bureau offers three great tools on its Web site. Convention and travel planners can search the site for "Hot Rates" on local hotel rooms and find coupons for discounts on lodging, transportation and attractions. They also can fill out an on-line request for a Plano Perks card, described as "a cell phone-based concierge" that gives them access to help with shopping suggestions, dining reservations, event tickets and more with a single phone call.

The CVB's convention services are free for groups using at least 50 peak night rooms. The perks include vendor leads and bid proposals, site inspections, information brochures, transportation coordination, planning tours and events and on-site registration assistance.

Air travel to Plano is made easy by the city's proximity to two major airports: Dallas/Fort Worth International and Love Field in Dallas. The local DART Rail light rail service and DART bus service provide economical ways for visitors to get around town.

The Plano area is home to one of Texas' most popular visitor attractions, the Southfork Ranch in Parker. A special feature of the guided tour is the "Dallas Legends: Fact to Fantasy" exhibit, containing artifacts like the gun that shot J.R. and lots of other memorabilia from the famous television show. Back in the city, a walking tour of Historic Plano takes in the shops, old homes and brick-paved streets of the downtown area. The Interurban Railway Museum, which spotlights the history of railway transportation in north Texas, is located in this district.

Another local attraction with a historical focus is Heritage Farmstead, a three-acre museum depicting farm life in the early 1900s. Visitors can get a taste of today's local agricultural harvest at Fairview Farms Market Place, which includes a farmer's market and an event facility called the Fairview Corral Barn.

For lovers of the arts, the ArtCentre of Plano offers theater performances to see and art galleries to browse.

For more information call (800) 81-PLANO.


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